One year ago, on February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared its independence, and has so far been recognized by more than 50 countries representing close to 60% of the world’s economic power. Interethnic violence – which many feared – has largely been avoided, and the mass exodus of Serbs that some also predicted has not occurred. The Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement (the so-called “Ahtisaari Plan”), which provides for international supervision of Kosovo’s independence, is gradually being implemented. A large civilian European Union mission has been deployed.
Unfortunately, however, we still cannot turn the page on this pernicious conflict, which has led to so much tragedy and has been a cause of instability in the Balkans for far too long. The issue will not go away, because Serbia persists in its rejection of the new reality, and is doing everything in its power to prevent normalization.
On orders from Serbia’s government, Kosovo Serbs, who represent some 5% of the population, refuse to cooperate with Kosovo’s government and the EU mission. In doing so – and this is the irony of the matter – Serbs themselves are preventing the early implementation of the wide-ranging community rights foreseen in the Ahtisaari Plan, which would bring to them a normal and secure life. On the international level, Serbia – with strong support from Russia – is actively engaged in blocking Kosovo’s accession to the United Nations and other global or regional organizations.
It is difficult to comprehend what Serbia aims to achieve. Nobody will deny that, for any state, being separated from part of its territory is a painful matter – even if a different ethnic group largely populates that territory. Still, there are examples in recent history when this has been achieved in a consensual manner.